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Student-Built Engines Help Fuel Success of Champion Nick Hoffman

Sep 25, 2020 ·

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  • Student-Built Engines Help Fuel Success of Champion Nick Hoffman

NASCAR Technical Institute’s automotive training is designed to prepare students for exciting careers in the industry.1 For students in the Spec Engine course,11 the opportunity to get in on the excitement often comes before they even graduate.

Just recently, driver Nick Hoffman won three races, on three consecutive nights, at three different tracks — putting him at 11 wins so far for the 2020 DIRTcar season. This made for an exciting weekend for NASCAR Tech, as the engine that powered Nick’s wins was built by our very own students in the Spec Engine program!

Keep reading to learn all about Nick’s recent wins and how students in NASCAR Tech’s Spec Engine course are making an impact in the industry.24

A Winning Weekend

Labor Day weekend is typically a big weekend in racing, and for Nick, it was no different this time around.

Nick’s first two wins were back-to-back Summit Racing Equipment American Modified Series shows at Farmer City Raceway and Fairbury. The third came from his win at the Plowboy Nationals at Spoon River Speedway. In total, he walked away with $22,500 of the $24,000 that could be won in DIRTcar UMP Modified competition over the four major events that took place in Illinois.

The following weekend, Nick took home three more wins — putting him at six consecutive wins. His next two races will be at Morgantown, Kentucky’s Cedar Ridge Speedway to finish off the 2020 DIRTcar season, where he’ll be crowned champion. Overall, Nick has won 23 feature races this year and is leading the points championship by 101 points.

These wins are an exciting milestone in Nick’s career, but they’re also incredibly rewarding for the NASCAR Tech students who worked to help build Nick’s engine behind the scenes.

How NASCAR Tech Is Fueling the Racing Industry

Not only is NASCAR Tech training graduates to work in the field, but its students are quite literally fueling the industry by building winning engines.24

Those who complete the 15-week NASCAR Technician Training program have the opportunity to take the 3-week Spec Engine course, an elite program where students build their very own engine. These engines don’t stay in the lab, however — they go on to compete in some of the highest levels of motorsports in America.

The Spec Engine course is reserved for NASCAR Tech’s top students. To be considered, they must have a minimum of a 3.8 GPA and 98% professionalism and attendance score. This keeps class sizes small, giving students the opportunity to receive hands-on, individualized training as they work on these engines.

According to John Dodson, UTI’s VP of Business Alliance, “When students take tours of the campus and see the Spec Engine lab, they always say, ‘That’s my goal.’ It really sets the bar high for them.”

In addition to gaining valuable experience, this program gives students the opportunity to get their foot in the door with the industry. “Before they even graduate, we often have employers calling to ask who’s in the spec engine class, because they know these students are going to be the ones who are highly sought after,” John says.6

One of the most exciting aspects of this program is the ability for students to track the performance of the engines they build. In addition to Nick, drivers like Kyle Larson, Bubba Wallace, Aric Almirola and Cole Custer have all hit the track with NASCAR Tech’s student-built engines.

“There’s a lot of pride that comes from knowing you’ve built a winning engine — it sticks with you for the rest of your life,” John shares.

An Inside Look at the Spec Engine Course

So what exactly goes on in the Spec Engine lab?

Over the course of three weeks, students are mentored by champion engine builder Darrell Hoffman—the father of driver Nick Hoffman! As the instructor of the course, Darrell works to bring a real-world element into the lab to help set students up for success.

By the time students reach the spec engine course, they’ve already learned how to tear down and rebuild an engine. From the moment they step foot into the spec engine lab, they’re working toward building an engine that will eventually be sent to compete on the track.

These students train in a highly technical, precise environment that’s similar to what they’ll experience in the field. Darrell maintains a steady flow of projects, so every student has at least one engine they’ll be able to build, run on the dynamometer, and send off to a race team.

While the program started out with building engines for the K&N series, students aren’t limited to working on only these engines. Thanks to Darrell’s industry connections, students have an opportunity to venture into all kinds of racing, from drag and dirt racing to motorcycles and monster trucks.

“It makes me feel good to see our students go on to work with race teams,” Darrell shares. “I know how excited I was when I got the call to move down south and work for an engine shop, and I want the same for my students.”

Graduates of this program have gone on to achieve incredible things in the industry. One of Darrell’s favorite memories is when a student of his went to the Indy 500 with Penske for his first race. When he won, the student texted Darrell from victory lane to thank him.

“There’s always going to be that one person in your career who helps you get to that next level,” Darrell shares. “That’s what I hope to be for my students.”

Advice for Breaking Into the Industry

Both Nick and Darrell agree that in the world of racing, the secret to success is having a good work ethic.

This can be an incredibly exciting career path, but there’s a lot of hard work that goes into it behind the scenes. “As long as you’re at the race track and have your head down and are working hard, someone is going to notice that,” Darrell shares.

It’s also important to diversify your skills and continuously be learning. “Learn as much as you can in as many avenues of racing you can. It will only broaden your horizons to what you can do for a living,” Nick says.

In addition to his racing career, Nick is a chassis builder himself — he started his own company called Elite Chassis in 2012. He loves building engines for customers and seeing them succeed, much like the students who build the engines he races with.

A Bright Future

Nick has always been a strong supporter of UTI and NASCAR Tech. “They’ve been a big supporter of mine, and I’m a supporter of them,” he shares. “The school can take you a long way if you take it seriously, work hard at it and push your limits.”

UTI and NASCAR Tech are thankful for industry leaders like Darrell and Nick who are playing a critical role in training and inspiring the next generation of technicians.

“We looked across America for an engine instructor, and didn’t have to look past Darrell Hoffman. We have the best in the country. We’re also really proud of our association with Nick — he speaks on behalf of us and partners with us, and chooses to represent UTI and NASCAR Tech,” John shares.

Today, more than 100 races have been won with NASCAR Tech student-built engines, and this number continues to grow. Students in the Spec Engine course are on a roll — and we’re excited to follow their success at NASCAR Tech and beyond!

Train for a Career at NASCAR Tech

NASCAR Technical Institute is the world’s first and only technician training school that combines a complete automotive technology program with NASCAR-specific motorsports training.24 To learn more, visit our website or request information to connect with an Admissions Representative today.

NASCAR Technical Institute Campuses That Offer NASCAR Technician Training

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1) NASCAR Technical Institute is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

2) For program outcome information and other disclosures, visit

6) UTI graduates’ achievements may vary. Individual circumstances and wages depend on personal credentials and economic factors. Work experience, industry certifications, the location of the employer and their compensation programs affect wages. UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

11) See program details for eligibility requirements and conditions that may apply.

24) NASCAR Technical Institute prepares graduates to work as entry-level automotive service technicians. Some graduates who take NASCAR-specific electives also may have job opportunities in racing-related industries. NASCAR Tech is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

Universal Technical Institute of Illinois, Inc. is approved by the Division of Private Business and Vocational Schools of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.


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